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Elena Soboleva – Experiencing art with Artsy


Artsy – Elena Soboleva is a Torontonian who followed her passion for art to New York City. Through her role at Artsy, she’s made it her mission to create accessible art experiences for the masses.

Elena studied art history and economics at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College. “I knew I had a passion for art,” she says. “It was in school that I was able to begin curating with the help of the wonderful professors I had in the department, as well as actually beginning the Trinity Art Show.” Next, Elena worked at Georgia Scherman on Tecumseh Street in Toronto, and eventually, her Master’s Degree research brought her to New York to the gallery representing Michael Snow

Elena began working with Artsy when it was a fledgling start-up. Now, she is the Contemporary Art Specialist who leads Special Projects at Artsy. “It has become the leading place to discover, buy, and sell art online,” she says. She has watched the company grow from its beta testing “to occupying this amazing place in the art world, and connecting online.”

Living the creative type’s New York dream, Elena works in Artsy’s open-concept office with 360 views of New York’s skyline on new products, as well as with the event and social media teams. Travelling to art fairs and festivals is also an important part of her job, but she spends her holidays going to art sites in remote places too. “Passion is essential if you’re going to work with art. I live and breathe it. It’s not something that is a work life balance, but a work life integration for me,” she says.

Elena Soboleva Courtesy of Artsy. Photo by Gesi Schilling

Artsy Special Projects

Elena leads Artsy Special Projects—the missions to physically bring art to the public. These projects bring meaningful and engaging art experiences to the masses, often with brand support from companies like Gucci and Microsoft. “It gives people another way to access art.”

These projects also benefit the artists by giving them a new platform to create. In a gallery setting, their artwork must align with a set of expectations. Often sales are factor in the work they create. “With these projects, and the idea of being able to create contemporary installations around an unusual space allows artists to experiment,” she says.

Artsy makes art accessible

Artsy has changed the way we experience art. “The online platform has been transformative for art because before we needed to live in a big city, and have a certain type of education to be able to learn about and experience art,” Elena says. There was a barrier because a lot of people felt intimidated to walk into a gallery. “Accessibility for us has been the idea of bringing art to everyone, and giving people the level of understanding to begin to engage with art.”

Not only does Elena work to bring art to people, but she makes an effort to tell the stories attached to the artwork—the reasons why artists create a certain piece in a certain way. She gives the example of Andy Warhol’s soup cans reflecting the mass-production of our North American post-war culture. “It gives people a different understanding than if they come at it without that context,” she says. “For us, it’s creating a place to learn about artists.”

Elena’s advice for buying art

Elena collects pieces from artists who are close to her, or pieces that challenge her. “I see challenge as not something you see and instantly fall in love with, but something that is in the back of your mind,” she says. “There’s a tension there, but it’s a good tension.”

So where do you start? “Just take a plunge and do it,” she says. Artists and those working with artists love to share the stories behind each piece. “A little bit of familiarity has always helped.” Reading about art before visiting a gallery gives a context and connection that helps eliminate the intimidation of enjoying art.

For collectors starting out on a budget, there are plenty of local up and coming artists who will sell their work for much less than those already featured in galleries. Artsy, for example, has a price filter for less expensive pieces. “Art does come at all price points,” she says. “There are so many artists that could use that support.”

Bombay Sapphire’s Artisan Series

Elena was recently in town for the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series, where Artsy awarded a local artist, Michael Vickers, with the chance to represent Toronto in Miami at the Scope Miami Beach Art Show with fifteen other finalists from across North America. Toronto had the most applicants of all the cities entered.

The grand prize is the chance of a lifetime for an emerging artist: One will win the grand prize, which includes $10,000 USD. Elena will be working with the grand prize winner on a project in New York as well.

Jill Clark – toimes.ca


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